Collection Development and Circulation Policies in Prison Libraries: An Exploratory Survey of Librarians in US Correctional Institutions

Prison libraries have traditionally fulfilled many purposes for their incarcerated patrons, and these libraries often carry a diverse collection to serve varied patron needs. However, during the trial of Steven Hayes for the Petit family murders, the prosecution questioned the collection development policies of the institutions where Hayes had previously been incarcerated, requesting the reading lists in efforts to prove that his salacious choices in literature fueled his crimes. This request by prosecution brought two major issues into question, including (1) the collection development policies of US prison libraries and (2) the question of patron privacy in prison libraries. This article investigates current prison library policies on collection development and confidentiality of patron borrowing records through an exploratory survey of seventeen librarians currently working in correctional institutions throughout the United States. Their responses detail collection development policies in the prison library and present the ambiguity for handling the confidentiality of patron borrowing records.